Chances are you’ve dined at Pinocchio in the past and not been super impressed. Great for satisfying a greasy hangover yearning, or a quick midweek dinner with the family, this 41-year-old Toorak stalwart has not exactly been known for its stellar menu or ambience. Until now, that is.
Since he purchased the venue and brand rights three years ago, John Gdanski had always envisioned a shakeup. Together with his wife Gaby Tomkin and business partner Renato Chilelli, he initially started with the much-loved Pinocchio in Hampton and has now completely renovated the Toorak Road site in its likeness.
Gdanski’s first foray into the world of hospitality was Geppetto’s in Kew and Burwood, and the Pinocchio revamp had much to do with keeping a thread between the restaurants. “As in life, the son will always outgrow the father and so Pinocchio will his dad,” he says. “Where Geppetto’s is small and intimate, Pinocchio is much livelier and the space and venue needed to reflect that.”
Gone is the cartoonish face of the little wooden boy, now replaced with vintage illustrations re-produced from a treasured book Gdanski was given when he was young. The fit-out itself is a loose tribute to Geppetto’s works, complete with wooden walls and tables, and pizzas served on mini ‘workbenches’ such as the cobbler himself would have worked on.
Authentic Italian is crucial to the restaurant’s success, and the team has strived to keep this going across the board.
“The majority of our staff is Italian, the wood fire oven is sourced directly from Italy and our produce is brought in direct from the source where possible,” says Gdanski.
Pizzas come in all guises and are created in the said traditional Italian wood fire oven that rotates as it heats the dough to ensure each pizza is cooked evenly. In addition, pasta is made on site and the wine list is extensive. And for those after something a little fancier, there are some excellent mains including a 40-day aged porterhouse steak, or a lamb shoulder with artichoke puree. This real boy really is all grown up.
Pinocchio Pizza Restaurant
152 Toorak Road, South Yarra
(03) 9867 2772
Pizza & Bar Menu, noon–late